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Old Father Morris; A Sketch From Nature
by [?]

Of all the marvels that astonished my childhood, there is none I remember to this day with so much interest as the old man whose name forms my caption. When I knew him, he was an aged clergyman, settled over an obscure village in New England. He had enjoyed the advantages of a liberal education, had a strong, original power of thought, an omnipotent imagination, and much general information; but so early and so deeply had the habits and associations of the plough, the farm, and country life wrought themselves into his mind, that his after acquirements could only mingle with them, forming an unexampled amalgam like unto nothing but itself.

He was an ingrain New Englander, and whatever might have been the source of his information, it came out in Yankee form, with the strong provinciality of Yankee dialect.

It is in vain to attempt to give a full picture of such a genuine unique; but some slight and imperfect dashes may help the imagination to a faint idea of what none can fully conceive but those who have seen and heard old Father Morris.

Suppose yourself one of half a dozen children, and you hear the cry, “Father Morris is coming!” You run to the window or door, and you see a tall, bulky old man, with a pair of saddle bags on one arm, hitching his old horse with a fumbling carefulness, and then deliberately stumping towards the house. You notice his tranquil, florid, full-moon face, enlightened by a pair of great round blue eyes, that roll with dreamy inattentiveness on all the objects around; and as he takes off his hat, you see the white curling wig that sets off his round head. He comes towards you, and as you stand staring, with all the children around, he deliberately puts his great hand on your head, and, with deep, rumbling voice, inquires,–

“How d’ye do, my darter? is your daddy at home?” “My darter” usually makes off as fast as possible, in an unconquerable giggle. Father Morris goes into the house, and we watch him at every turn, as, with the most liberal simplicity, he makes himself at home, takes off his wig, wipes down his great face with a checked pocket handkerchief, helps himself hither and thither to whatever he wants, and asks for such things as he cannot lay his hands on, with all the comfortable easiness of childhood.

I remember to this day how we used to peep through the crack of the door, or hold it half ajar and peer in, to watch his motions; and how mightily diverted we were with his deep, slow manner of speaking, his heavy, cumbrous walk, but, above all, with the wonderful faculty of ” hemming ” which he possessed.

His deep, thundering, protracted “A-hem-em” was like nothing else that ever I heard; and when once, as he was in the midst of one of these performances, the parlor door suddenly happened to swing open, I heard one of my roguish brothers calling, in a suppressed tone, “Charles! Charles! Father Morris has hemmed the door open!”–and then followed the signs of a long and desperate titter, in which I sincerely sympathized.

But the morrow is Sunday. The old man rises in the pulpit. He is not now in his own humble little parish, preaching simply to the hoers of corn and planters of potatoes, but there sits Governor D., and there is Judge R., and Counsellor P., and Judge G. In short, he is before a refined and literary audience. But Father Morris rises; he thinks nothing of this; he cares nothing; he knows nothing, as he himself would say, but “Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” He takes a passage of Scripture to explain; perhaps it is the walk to Emmaus, and the conversation of Jesus with his disciples. Immediately the whole start out before you, living and picturesque: the road to Emmaus is a New England turnpike; you can see its mile stones, its mullein stalks, its toll gates. Next the disciples rise, and you have before you all their anguish, and hesitation, and dismay talked out to you in the language of your own fireside. You smile; you are amused; yet you are touched, and the illusion grows every moment. You see the approaching stranger, and the mysterious conversation grows more and more interesting. Emmaus rises in the distance, in the likeness of a New England village, with a white meeting house and spire. You follow the travellers; you enter the house with them; nor do you wake from your trance until, with streaming eyes, the preacher tells you that “they saw it was the Lord Jesus–and what a pity it was they could not have known it before!”